NOTE: Homemade Almond Milk

Almonds. I chop them up and put them on everything from salads to deserts. I grind them up and bake with them. I eat them raw, roasted, candy coated and most often, in liquid form. Let me preface this post with the fact that I do not have anything against dairy, nor do I only drink almond milk alone. However, it is delicious and so so easy to make at home and those are my two favorite factors in literally any food I eat a lot of. It is also very low calorie while still containing all kinds of nutrients (Calcium, vitamins D &E, and healthy fats). Low cost is a competing factor when, unfortunately, store bought almond milk, at least here in the midwest, can cost anywhere from $3-$8 for HALF a gallon.

Why on earth would I pay so much for something that I can easily, in minutes, do myself? I wouldn’t. At least not any longer. So let me answer your question: How can you make your own, fresh, raw almond milk?

  1. Purchase high quality raw (not roasted) almonds.
    Note: Like anything else I make a lot of, the cost goes down considerably when you buy these in bulk (In my area a one pound package is around $6/pound but I can buy them in bulk for $4/pound or less online)
  2. Soak 1 cup of almonds in water, in a covered container, at room temperature for at LEAST 8 hours.
    Note: I would recommend 24 hours for better flavor.
  3. When you are ready to make milk, rinse the soaked almonds and put them in a blender with 4 cups of filtered (or bottled) water.
    Note: I use 4 cups of water because I like my milk to be similar to store bought texture, which is thicker and creamier, but this way it’s without added “stabilizers” and “gums” that processed milks have. I have made the milk with more water and it tasted fine, just not to my preference. If you want to stretch your dollar more, adding more water will do this too.
  4. Optional: Add any sweetners: dates, vanilla, cinnamon.
  5. NOT optional: Add a dash-1/2 tsp of kosher salt. Salt is necessary for our mouths to experience flavors, especially a mild one like fresh almond (and vanilla)
  6. Blend almonds, water and salt for about 3-5 minutes on high.
    Note: All over the internet you will see people using high powered Vitamix blenders to do this, but let me tell you something…my blender has got to be from the 70′s and it works just fine. I would enjoy owning a Vitamix for other various reasons- aside from simply not wanting to own a blender from the 70s- but making Almond milk alone does not require anyone to purchase a $500 machine.
  7. Pour contents into a milk bag over a large measuring cup or medium sized bowl.
    Note: Nut milk bags are mesh and can be purchased cheaply on Amazon and other various online sources, and they are reusable! You can strain your milk through a fine meshed strainer, like I did the first couple times while experimenting, but the milking bag makes a huge difference in richness. I love mine!
  8. “Milk” the bag. Squeezing from all sides and letting the milk drain out, separating from the almond pulp. Be sure not to squeeze it all into one corner as it may rip the bag.
  9. Pour your milk into a airtight container.
    Note:I recommend glass so that the flavor doesn’t leach into plastic or viceversa. I bought one for these for this exact storage purpose and plan on buying a bigger one in the future-it works wonderfully!

Enjoy milk over a bowl of steel cut oats with fruit, in smoothies, or just enjoy a tall glass on its own!

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You Are My Density: Chocolate Torte

I am of the opinion that anyone can do anything they put their mind to, and though some may have to try more times than others to get it right, most will have the satisfaction of knowing they tried at all. So when I tell my husband that he can choose which dessert I make him on his birthday, I was genuinely excited to try something deliciously different when he presented the challenge: Chocolate Torte.

This chocolate torte might be the best thing I’ve ever had the joy of making, desert wise. A torte is a dense cake, replacing some of the flour with crushed nuts for more texture. It looked great (though next time I have a better plan of attack for the glaze to make it look a bit less messy) and tasted delicious. I had never made a torte before, and more specifically had not used this recipe yet, so it was a completely wonderful shot in the dark. I used a trusted source to get started and used high quality ingredients-this can make all of the difference in two separate people making the same recipe.  In addition to the pictures, I have explained the steps to making your very own chocolate torte that will, without a doubt,  impress the masses.

INGREDIENTS:
Cake:
-8 Ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
-12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks or 6 ounces) butter, cut into pieces
-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
-1 ¾ cups (7 ounces) sliced almonds, slightly toasted
-¼ cup (1 ¼ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
-1 tsp kosher salt
-5 large eggs
-¾ cup (5 ¼ ounces) sugar
-½ cup fresh raspberries, plus 16 individual berries for garnishing
-¼ cup raspberry jam (I used preserves, and although homemade is always best, store-bought is fine)

Chocolate Ganache Glaze:
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream

FOR THE CAKE:
1)Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line bottom of two 9-inch-wide by 2-inch-high round cake pans with parchment paper.

2)Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Stir in vanilla.

I used my mixer bowl on a pan it fits into just for this purpose, but if you own an actual double boiler, use that.

3)Process 3/4 cup almonds in food processor or grinder until coarsely chopped, six to eight 1-second pulses; set aside to garnish cake. Process remaining cup almonds until very finely ground, about 45 seconds. Add flour and salt and continue to process until combined, about 15 seconds. Transfer almond-flour mixture to medium bowl.
4) Process eggs in now-empty food processor until lightened in color and almost doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. With processor running, slowly add sugar until thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds.
5) Using whisk, gently fold egg mixture into chocolate mixture until some streaks of egg remain.
6)Sprinkle half almond-flour mixture over chocolate-egg mixture and gently whisk until just combined. Sprinkle in remaining almond-flour mixture and gently whisk until just combined.

7)Divide batter between cake pans with rubber spatula. Bake until center is firm and toothpick inserted into center comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 14 to 16 minutes. (This time may vary with ovens, so be sure to check the consistency before taking it out!) Transfer cakes to wire rack and cool completely in pan, about 30 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of cakes to loosen.

8- Trickiest part of any cake layering: Invert cakes, either onto cardboard rounds cut same size as diameter of cake, or like I did, use plates. Remove parchment paper. Using wire rack, re-invert 1 cake so top side faces up; slide back onto platform for cake.

TO ASSEMBLE TORTE:
1)Place ½ cup raspberries in medium bowl and coarsely mash with raspberry jam until just combined.
2)Spread raspberry mixture onto cake layer that is top side up.
3) Top with second cake layer, leaving it bottom side up.

FOR THE GLAZE & DECOR:
1) Melt (5 ounces) chocolate and cream in medium heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat whisking until very smooth.
2) Pour glaze onto center of assembled cake. Use offset spatula to spread glaze evenly over top of cake, letting it flow down sides. Spread glaze along sides of cake to coat evenly.
3) Holding bottom of platform the cake sits on with 1 hand, gently press almonds onto cake sides with other hand.
4)Arrange raspberries around circumference. Tip: To make them even put raspberries at noon, 3, 6, and 9 first.

5) Refrigerate cake until glaze is set, at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. Slice and Serve.

They ate it. All of it. Every crumb. <3

I am always reminded, each and every time I make something new, that you never can cease to suprise yourself and are capable of things you probably had never even considered. This goes for baking, cooking, and pretty much everything else in life.  With that said, I did want to make note that I will be shifting slightly in my blog to include *other* homemade goodies (outside of simply baked ones), consisting of both mine and others’ time and effort. There are many things that I have been wanting to share, and will be in future posts.  Any thoughts or ideas are always welcomed and appreciated, of course. If you aren’t already following Ikneadbread, you can always comment or question on my facebook page as well.

I look forward to all the new things that both you, my followers, and I can try!

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Unseasonably Warm Cinnamon Rolls

Yesterday was the first day of spring.  For the past week the sun has been out, the temperatures have been high enough for tank tops and shorts, and there was even an ice cream cone give away in my city. Ice cream giveaways…in March! One can only assume that we will be making up for it with a snow storm in May. For now, though, it’s a beautiful luxury and I tell you now-get outside today! Break out the grill, if you’ve got one.
This weekend we will be having dinner with family, and for the past few months I had planned to bring cinnamon rolls. It is a recipe that I enjoy far too much to make on a regular basis, as the last time I made a batch I ate almost half the pan myself. Needless to say, that’s not a very good (although tasty) way to eat anything. So the cinnamon roles have been limited to special days, like visits with family who will share in eating the pan with me. However, with the switch from brisk snow showers haven’t I missed the time for hot gooey sweets? Of course not. Thankfully,  regardless of out of place weather, these are a crop that are never out of season. Plus, you start them at night, and if there’s anything I love, it’s less work in the morning for a delicious breakfast.

Special Equipment: Stand Mixer, 9X13 glass baking dish, rolling pin, Kitchen Scale (While not necessarily it will make ALL of your recipes more accurate and consistent) 

Ingredients
Dough:
-4 large egg yolks, room temp
-1 large whole egg, room temp
-2 ounces sugar (approx 1/4 cup)
-3 ounces butter, melted (approx 6 Tbsp)
-6 ounces buttermilk, room temperature (substitution: dry buttermilk with water, or plain whole milk)
-20 ounces all-purpose flour (approx 4 cups) +some for dusting
-2 &1/4 tsp instant yeast
-1& 1/4 kosher salt
(Oil, cooking spray, or additional butter for pan)

Filling:
- 8 ounces brown sugar (Approx. 1 cup packed. I use dark brown sugar)
- 1 tbsp freshly ground cinnamon
- pinch koshers salt
- 3/4 ounce butter, melted (Approx 1 & 1/2 tbsp)

Icing:
-2&1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened (Approx 1/4 cup)
- 3 tbsp milk
-5& 1/2 ounces powdered sugar (Approx 1 & 1/2 cups)

DIRECTIONS:
1) In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter and buttermilk. Add 2 cups of the flour, the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined. 
 2) Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook.  Add all but 3/4 cup of the remaining flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. The dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky (at this point add more flour if necessary). Knead on low speed until the dough clears the sides of the bowl.

3) Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, kneading by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil/butter/spray a large bowl.

4) Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, about 2-2 1/2 hours.
5) Close to end of rising, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix well and set aside    until ready to use.

6) Butter a 9X13-inch glass baking dish. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, gently shaping the dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you.

7) Roll into an 18 by 12-inch rectangle.  (I actually used a ruler for this) Brush the dough with the 3/4 ounce of melted butter, leaving 1/2 inch border along the top edge.

8) Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving a 3/4 inch border along the top edge; gently press the filling into the dough. Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down.

Try to be more even than I am here =)

9) Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness. Using a serrated knife, slice the cylinder into 1&1/2 inch rolls (about 12 rolls). Arrange them cut side down in the baking dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight, or up to 16 hours.

(The next morning)
10) Remove the rolls from the refridgetor and place in an oven that is off. Fill a shallow pan 2/3 full of boiling water and set on the rack below the rolls. Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy (approx 30 min).

puffy

11) Remove the rolls and the pan of water from the oven. Then set oven to 350 degrees F.
12) When the oven is ready, place rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown, or until the internal temperature is 190 degrees F. (approx 30 min)

13) While the rolls are cooling slightly, make the icing: Whisk cream cheese in the bowl of the stand mixer until cream. Then add milk and whisk. Finally sift in the powdered sigar and whisk until smooth. Spread over the rolls and serve immediately.
Alternatively, you can freeze the rolls for a few hours and they taste delicious as a semi-frozen pastry in warm weather. Yum.

“Cinnamon. It should be on tables at restaurants along with salt and pepper. Anytime anyone says, “Oh This is so good. What’s in it?” The answer invariably comes back, “Cinnamon”. “Cinnamon”. Again and again.”
(-Jerry Seinfeld)
 

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Sticks and Scones

There are so many things that happen after the holidays end. You go back to work; you put the tree away; you feel the guilt of making yourself sick Christmas day with so much food. You think life is getting back into a normal routine…until you walk into your gym and you see that, suddenly, there are half a million more members who you’ve never seen in your life. New year’s resolutions are pumping strong (as they will until mid February). There are no weights, no treadmills, no machines- nothing for you to do but wait your turn. Or go home and do something else.

Well yeah, sort of.

On a night such as that, I ended up doing the exact opposite of working out: I watched cooking shows (America’s Test Kitchen) and baked oatmeal scones. For those of you who are unaware I am a fan of both tea and coffee, and I love oats. I buy steel cut and old fashioned oats in bulk, cooking, soaking and baking them all, practically every day. Making breakfast pastries that could include them as a main ingredient was only a natural progression fed by boredom. The great thing about this recipe is how moist the scones stay. No dipping them into coffee in order to be edible, and while a glaze would be tasty, it was by no means necessary to add, as the scones have their own toasted-oats flavor I prefer over sugar any day.  Having one (and I mean 1) of them for breakfast was a wonderful treat without being over the top sweet. Although next time I may add blueberries just because I love blueberries. I have included the estimated nutritional breakdown at the bottom. Enjoy your morning-no matter how hard you work you only get so many!

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups (4 1/2 ounces) old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup whole milk (you could also use 1/4 milk and 1/4 heavy cream as well)
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour *PLUS 2 Tablspoons if using King Arthur AP flour, which I did.
1/3 cup (2 1/4ounces) sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (5 ounces) cold butter, broke/cut into about 1/2-inch pieces
Special Equipment: Food processor

1) Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread oats evenly on baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant and lightly browned, 7 to 9 minutes; cool on wire rack.
 2) Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Line second baking sheet with parchment paper. When oats are cooled, measure out 2 tablespoons and set aside.

3) Whisk milk, cream, and egg in large measuring cup until incorporated; remove 1 tablespoon to small bowl and reserve for glazing.

4) Pulse flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in food processor until combined, about four 1-second pulses. Scatter cold butter evenly over dry ingredients and pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, twelve to fourteen 1-second pulses.

 

 

 

5)Transfer mixture to medium bowl; stir in cooled oats. Using rubber spatula, fold in liquid ingredients until large clumps form. Mix dough by hand in bowl until dough forms cohesive mass.

 

 

 

 

6) Dust work surface with half of reserved oats, turn dough out onto work surface, and dust top with remaining oats. Gently pat into 7-inch circle about 1 inch thick.

7) Using bench scraper or chef’s knife, cut dough into 8 wedges and set on parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Brush surfaces with reserved egg mixture and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.

8 ) Bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes; cool scones on baking sheet on wire rack 5 minutes, then remove scones to cooling rack and cool to room temperature. Serve.
Nutrition Facts- 1 serving (78.4 g)
Calories 278            Calories from Fat 150
Total Fat 16.7g           Saturated Fat 9.8g
Cholesterol 66mg       Sodium 266mg
Carbohydrates 28.7g Dietary Fiber 2.3g
Sugars 1.2g                  Protein  5.6g
Vitamin A 10% – Calcium 8%-Iron 7%

   

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Eat Dessert First: Apple Pie From Scratch

                  With the weather shifting to cold (there are only two temperatures here, really) Fall is fleeting, but beautiful. In addition to my own baking, I have also been baking for several other people we know which has kept me happily occupied. In addition to my usual items, I decided to step up and try my hand at pie! Throughout October, we have been apple picking several times, luckily living only a few miles away from a orchard/farm. This might also set us up negatively, should a Children of the Corn-esque situation occur, but I’m willing to take the chance because the apples made a delicious pie. Making the entire house smell like apple pie -without a candle- was just about the most “fall” I’ve ever experienced at once. Although I have never been a huge pie person, this was definitely worth it.  In fact, since I let it cool overnight, it made a great breakfast. Apples make it healthy, right?
In the next 6 months we here can expect cold, snow, and colder, but to brighten the darkness is Thanksgiving and Christmas. What are better excuses to make lots and lots of baked foods?  In addition to this opportunity to explore, Ikneadbread is (horray!) almost a year old, and my next post will be reader-chosen, so please, once you have made your pie, take a chance to vote at the bottom!

About this Pie:
1) The crust has brandy in it, and speaking as someone who only ingests alcohol in food form, it makes the crust what it is-so you can NOT skip it. The alcohol keeps gluten from forming in the crust, so that it remains flaky.
2) Use a variety of apples. Use local ones, if you can, because they will be the freshest and as a result taste the best.
3) It uses tapioca flour, which many people aren’t familiar with. Since a popular brand (Bob’s Red Mill) is one seller, you can usually find it in chain grocery stores, often in the baking/health/organic/specialty product section(s). If you can’t, you can definitely find it in specialty stores and online.
4) If you have a smaller food processor, like I unfortunately do (Christmas gift anyone?!), divide all ingredients for the crust in half and repeat steps for second half. The dough would have needed to be split in two sections anyway so it isn’t too inconvenient for this recipe to do it this way.
5) I used a tart pan (high sided, removable bottom) to make this super easy to get out of the pan. I’m sure you could make it in a normal pie pan….

…but why?

  For the crust:
6 ounces butter, broken up into pieces
2 ounces vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 tablespoons brandy
12 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 2 3/4 cups, plus extra for dusting
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

For the filling:
3 to 3 1/2 pounds apples, about 6 large apples
1/2 cup sugar, divided
3 tablespoons tapioca flour
2 tablespoons apple jam or jelly (the pectin in it is the important part. I used a homemade jam and it worked fine)
1 tablespoon apple cider
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (you can use Grains of Paradise here, but I didn’t as it’s hard to find and more expensive)

Directions 
For the Crust:
1) Place the butter, shortening and applejack into the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes
2) In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar by pulsing 3 to 4 times.
3)Add the butter and pulse 5 to 6 times until the texture looks mealy. Add the shortening and pulse another 3 to 4 times until incorporated.
4)Remove the lid of the food processor and sprinkle in 6 tablespoons of the applejack. Replace the lid and pulse 5 times, or until the mixture holds together when squeezed.
5) Weigh the dough and divide in half. Shape each half into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight. 

For the Filling:
1) Peel and core the apples. Slice into 1/2-inch thick wedges.
2) Toss all of the apples with 1/4 cup of the sugar, place in a colander set over a large bowl and allow to drain for 1 1/2 hours.
3)Transfer the drained liquid to a small saucepan, place over medium heat and reduce to 2 tablespoons. Set aside to cool.
4) Toss the apples with the remaining sugar, tapioca flour, jam/jelly, cider, lime juice, salt and pepper. For Assembling and baking the pie:
1)Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2)Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator.
3)Place the dough onto a lightly floured piece of waxed paper. Lightly sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and roll out into a 12-inch circle. Place into a 9 1/2 to 10-inch tart pan that is 2-inches deep.
4) Gently press the dough into the sides of the pan, crimping and trimming the edges as necessary. Set either a pie bird in the center of the dough or make your own out of tinfoil-the point here is for steam to escape rather than collapse the pie.
5) Place the apples into the unbaked pie shell in concentric circles starting around the edges, working towards the center and forming a slight mound in the center of the pie.
6) Pour over any liquid that remains in the bowl. Roll out the second pie dough as the first. Place this dough over the apples, pressing the pie bird through the top crust.
7) Press together the edges of the dough around the rim of the pie. Brush the top crust with the reduced juice everywhere except around the edge of pie. Trim any excess dough.
8 ) Place the pie on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper on either the lowest rack of your oven, or (in the case of gas stoves) on the floor of the oven for 30 minutes. Transfer to the lower rack of the oven and continue to bake another 20 minutes or until the apples are cooked through but not mushy.
9) Remove to a rack and cool a minimum of 4 hours or until almost room temperature.

With Thanksgiving around the corner this pie will most definitely be made many more times. One of my lovely readers shared a picture of her apple pie:

 
       (Thanks Eleah!)

She is clearly cooler in that she does, in fact, own a pie bird =) To share your own photo’s or recipes, email me or post on Ikneadbread’s Facebook/Twitter!

For the upcoming anniversary of Ikneadbread, please vote on what you would like to see made! 

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Thank you for your feedback! Happy Halloween!

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